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Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... subject of increasing critical interest. In her lifetime she was praised by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Louise Bogan, but Edmund Wilson said that One of Ours,* her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was a complete failure and that My Antonia ended on the level of a Ladies Home Journal serial. Lionel Trilling called The Professor’s House ‘lame’ and Ernest ...

Yawning and Screaming

John Bayley, 5 February 1987

Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... Adorno and Althusser are as much at home in Jane Austen’s dressing-room as are Dostoevsky and Scott Fitzgerald. This may be all to the good, though it leads him to such remarks as that Elizabeth Bennet’s ‘gay resilience in a society tending always towards dull conformity would make her a worthy heroine in a Stendhal novel, which cannot be said for ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... During World War One he was a Princeton undergraduate (as I was almost fifty years later) with F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Peale Bishop, at a time of what seems now like relatively uncomplicated Wasp hegemony there and in the arts generally. His ties with that university remained deep, not only through his literary friends, but also through Christian ...

Mad to Be Saved

Thomas Powers: The Kerouac Years, 25 October 2012

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac 
by Joyce Johnson.
Viking, 489 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 0 670 02510 7
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... American writers between the taker-outers and the putter-inners. In the first group he included Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James, who wrote and rewrote to render a book down to a polished gem. The second group included Whitman and Wolfe, who reached out to embrace the whole impossible landscape of American experience to make a mighty book like the ...

All of Denmark was at his feet

John Sutherland, 12 May 1994

John Steinbeck: A Biography 
by Jay Parini.
Heinemann, 605 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 434 57492 9
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... O’Neill, Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Singer, Bellow, Morrison. There are others – Sinclair Lewis, Pearl S. Buck and John Steinbeck – for whom non-literary factors seem to have been at work. With Steinbeck one can guess what the factors were. Europeans have always had what Graham Greene called a ‘fetish’ about him. It was a lucky stroke that The ...

Success

Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport, 7 November 2013

... best book I know on the relationship between sporting culture and success is Moneyball, Michael Lewis’s account of the 2002 Oakland A’s baseball team.† The argument is compellingly simple: sports teams are run like gentlemen’s clubs rather than businesses, and clubs don’t base their business decisions on facts but on codes and intuitions. A ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances, 7 March 2019

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... intrusion by an 18th-century lyric into the UK top ten. ‘Lochaber no more/Sutherland no more/Lewis no more/Skye no more’, sang the Proclaimers, reprising the sentiment a few lines later as ‘Bathgate no more/Linwood no more/Methil no more/Irvine no more’. These were towns where big car plants and steel fabrication factories had recently shut down ...

Oh, the curse!

David Runciman: A home run, 19 February 2004

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Cape, 342 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 224 05042 7
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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game 
by Michael Lewis.
Norton, 288 pp., $24.95, June 2003, 0 393 05765 8
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... valuable. Just how valuable it has proved to one team in particular is the subject of Michael Lewis’s fascinating Moneyball. Lewis’s book tells the recent history of the Oakland Athletics, one of the worst supported and least affluent teams in major league baseball. Most of the time, the order in which teams finish ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1985

The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... even when they take up a disproportionate amount of space, as (many would think) in the case of Scott. But I notice that a good deal of what appears to have been carried forward has been unobtrusively revised or augmented. Harvey is said to have been rather weak on ‘movements’, and the new editor has tried to remedy this defect, even claiming to have ...

Grunge Futurism

Julian Loose, 4 November 1993

Virtual Light 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 670 84081 5
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Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Post-Modern Science Fiction 
by Scott Bukatman.
Duke, 416 pp., £15.95, August 1993, 0 8223 1340 5
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... Any decent cyberpunk library would include the novels of Sterling, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and Lewis Shiner, along with the anthology Mirroshades, the casebook Storming the Reality Studio, and a growing number of academic studies like Scott Bukatman’s Terminal Identity. Bukatman pays extensive tribute to Gibson’s ...

A Giant Still Sleeping

Lorna Scott Fox: Mike Davies, 4 April 2002

Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 202 pp., £10, November 2001, 9781859843284
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... back. He is one of the last relics of madder, more eclectic days. The poet and environmentalist Lewis MacAdams claims that ‘in a Greek restaurant one night I saw him talk his way through an entire dinner, from the spanakopita to the baklava, without taking a bite.’ That struck a chord with me because some way into the first two parts of his projected ...

Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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Eon 
by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... Fiction which do not seem to fit definition or common patterns at all: most familiarly, C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet Trilogy. This has space travel in two volumes out of three, once arranged scientifically, once angelically. It also has a very clear attack on Wells/Darwin (or at any rate on Wellsian Darwinists, as ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... a characteristic military balls-up.’ Early in April a new wireless operator, Sergeant Kenneth Scott, was parachuted in to join Frank, while Scott’s code-book was dropped to a wholly different unit ‘somewhere in Thrace’ – and this at a time when the unit’s headquarters were being transferred from Cairo to Bari ...

Elizabethan Spirits

William Empson, 17 April 1980

The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age 
by Frances Yates.
Routledge, 224 pp., £7.75, November 1979, 9780710003201
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... of her own range of knowledge, and she seems to ignore his views, so I may speak up. C.S. Lewis, in the first chapter of his survey of English 16th-century literature (1954), said that earlier writers had treated magic as fanciful and remote, but in this period they felt it might be going on in the next street; and one reason was a thing they ...

Foxy-Faced

John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... public is curiously subtle. Thomas Mann and Arnold Bennett would have taken it for granted, like Scott, that though their reconstructions might not appeal to everyone, they would be read by a complete cross-section of the reading public, from the discerning connoisseur to those who were getting something out of the lending library. In the same way, the ...

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